All about chords, part 9 Online Guitar Lessons
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All About Chords, Part 9

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Darrin Koltow


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All About Chords, Part 9
CAGED 2 Blues Chord Melody

by Darrin Koltow

Be sure and check out all of the lessons in the "All About Chords" series.

Part 1 - how harmony and chords work
Part 2 - the ii-V-I chord progression.
Part 3
- Arpeggios
Part 4
- The Blues Injection
Part 5 - CAGED - Form E
Part 6 - CAGED 2 - Form A
Part 7 - CAGED 2 - Form A - Arpeggios
Part 8 - CAGED 2 - Form A - Chord Melody
Part 9 - CAGED 2 - Blues Chord Melody

The Big Picture

We're beginning to wind down the All About Chords series, because we don't want it too grow large. If it does, then you start to lose the Big Picture. And the big picture is just this: we are *making music*, instead of making meaningless and joyless shapes and sounds just to keep our fingers busy while our mind wanders. We're here to make music.

How do we make music? We've been doing it by thinking of music as a progression of chords. When we play a chord progression that's heard in a lot of music, we recognize we're making music. The ii-V-I is an example of such a common progression. It shows up everywhere. Go look in your closet; there's probably a ii-V-I buried under that sock you really believe you'll find a match for one day.

So, we make music by playing the ii-V-I. How do we play that ii-V-I? Where on the fretboard do we play it? Answer: we use the CAGED system, which translates the open position chords we're so familiar with, to the movable chord shapes we are becoming familiar with, using a bit o' practice. *Musical* practice, correct?

Once you learn the ii-V-I through all the CAGED forms, with arpeggios, chord melody and chord scales, not only will you be pretty proficient in making music with the guitar; you'll also be a much happier musician, because the very process of playing ii-V-I has you making *music*.

When you walk away from the All About Chords lessons, if you remember nothing else about it, remember this: "two five one, two five one, two five one." When you play a ii-V-I, you're making music.

Blues Chord Melody

We played a basic chord melody arrangement in the last lesson to work out the A CAGED form. But we didn't get to any Blues, so let's fix that right now. We'll play a chord melody arrangement that works out the arpeggios and chords of the A CAGED form, *and* that has the Blues to make it even more fun to practice.

   Q E E Q  Q   Q  Q  Q E E

  Q Q E E  Q   Q  Q E E  Q

  Q Q Q E E   Q E E  Q  Q

  E E Q  Q  Q   E E  Q  Q  Q
                 | This is a slide
                   with your third


Duration Legend
W-whole; H-half; Q-quarter; E-8th; S-16th; T-32nd

+ - note tied to previous
. - note dotted
.. - note double dotted

S - shift slide

Duration letters will always appear directly above the note/fret number they represent the duration for. Duration letters with no fret number below them represent rests.


Get the Power Tab file for this progression here

And get the MIDI here

If you need the free and awesome Power Tab app, get it here:

You won't be able to use strumming with this tab. Instead, use the Pick Fingerpick technique. Get re-acquainted with good ol' Pick here:

Creating that Blues feeling

This Blues tab is real close to the chord melody tab we played last lesson, as far as melody goes. The harmonies are the same, matching the I-ii-V-I in D major: D, Bm, A7, D. (Remember that sometimes I notate the I-ii-V-I as 1251.)

The tab in this lesson is like a "Bluesification" of last lesson's tab. You can do this Bluesification process yourself. We covered some guidelines for Bluesifying in part 4, which you can read here:

Let's summarize the steps to Bluesify a melody. Knock the third and seventh of any major chord down a half step. Add the half-step back and take it away again in a way that suits your own feeling.

We won't go through how we Bluesified each bar of last lesson's tab to produce this lesson's tab, but let's look at one or two bars.

In bar 1, we have a D major chord. Here it is before the Blues and after the Blues, or ("B.B." and "A.B."). It only has the melody, no chords:

Before Blues    After Blues
|-----5--7-  |-------5-- 7
|---7------  |---6-7-----  <-- Play frets six and
|-7--------  |-7---------      seven as 8th notes
|----------  |-----------
|----------  |-----------
|----------  |-----------

Do you hear how much difference one little note can make? No matter what you're playing, you're never too far from the Blues. This means you're never too far from turning a dull exercise into an exciting one. You only need to be aware of *how* to Bluesify a melody, and that's what we just showed.

About the E minor

There's something interesting about Bluesifying the 2nd chord in our I-ii-V-I progression, the Eminor. Since it's a minor chord, its third and seven are already flatted: G is a minor third from the root, E, and D is a minor seventh from E. So, how do you Bluesify a minor chord? Could we flat the already flatted notes? Or, would that make them too flat? A good question.

The answer is, you *could* double flat the third and seventh for the heck of it -- but you won't be creating a Blues sound. The Blues sound comes from messing with the third and seventh of *major* chords. Yet, play those two E minor bars again, and listen closely: you *do* get a Blues feeling there. How did we create it?

Pretending to be major

Again, we didn't mess with the third or seventh of the E minor. We *did* pretend that E minor was a major chord, a G major chord, to be exact.

"Hey!" you say. "You can't do that! Cats will start living with dogs, people will age in reverse, and God will turn off gravity!" (Isn't music powerful?)

Yes, we can pretend that the E minor (really an E minor 7 in our tab) is a G major, because the two chords are pretty close to one another. Look at the notes:

E minor 7: E, G, B, D
G major: G, B, D

And if you add a 6 to G major, the E note, you get this cozy alignment:

E minor 7: E, G, B, D
G major: E, G, B, D

"Cool: they're the same chord," you say. And I say, "Careful! Ancient Klingon proverb say, 'Same notes do not mean same chord'" If you need more explanation of why this is so, peek back at the last lesson. The last lesson tells us that the chord names, *plus* the note in the bass, determines the name and overall *feeling* of the harmony.

But back to our main point: you now see how close G major is to Eminor7. That means we can pretend we're playing with a G major instead of an Eminor7. And *that* means we can now apply our Bluesification process to "G major." We turn the major third of G major, the B, into a minor third, a Bb. Here's another before and after snapshot illustrating this. Again, we show just the melody so the Bluesifying process is clearer:

 Before Blues     After Blues
 |-----------    |------------
 |-----------    |------------
 |------4--7-    |-----3-4--7-
 |---5-------    |---5--------
 |-7---------    |-7----------
 |-----------    |------------

Now we know how to Bluesify a minor chord: pretend it's major.

Do you see how important your point-of-view is to understanding music and chords? If we had looked at just the notation or just the notes and seen only an E minor 7, we would have sighed and said, "Ah, well. I guess I can't make E minor sound Bluesey because it's not a major chord." Use this example to see other "hidden" chords and musical possibilities.

Music is not about rules, it's about options. Who would have thought only 12 different "colors" could produce unlimited masterpieces? Eat your heart out, Picasso.

Implying a minor key

Okay, enough philosophy. Let's take one more peek at the Eminor as we ask this question: "We Bluesified the B of G major, making it a Bb. Just out of curiosity, what degrees in Eminor are B and Bb?" Answer: the B is the fifth of Eminor, so the Bb is the flatted fifth.

Do you know what sound you're making, -- what *feeling* you're hinting at -- when you flat the five of a minor chord? Play this next tab slowly, and you'll see what I'm getting at.

  H H    H H   W

Wow. That was a ii-V-I in D *minor*, not major. That's dark stuff, huh? I wanted you to hear that so you could get another perspective on what you're playing when you flat the five of a minor chord.

It's tempting to go into the minor ii-V-I here, but I think it's a bit much to add on top of our plate, which is already filled with the major ii-V-I. When you're ready to pursue work in the minor ii-V-I, just remember that the basic structure of the progression is the same: the scale degrees you'll be working with are still ii, V and I.

The ii will have a flatted five, the V could have a whole slew of delicious alterations to it, but b9 or #5 will get you started; and the I will of course be minor instead of major.

Next lesson

In the next installment of the All About Chords series, which is the last, we'll list some of the topics not covered in the series. And we'll get into a couple of ideas for making your chord practicing more meaningful for you.

© 2002 Darrin Koltow, All rights reserved

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